Jul 23, 2015

Yellowstone's bison injure fifth tourist of 2015

A Yellowstone National Park visitor saw other people near buffalo on Tuesday and figured it was OK for her to get close, too. Unfortunately, much like other visitors who've gotten too near the animals this year, the 43-year-old Mississippi woman was attacked.

It was the fifth such incident in the park this year. That's already an unusually high number as Yellowstone's averaged one or two such attacks in recent years.

Yellowstone bison file photo courtesy Randolph Femmer, U.S. Geological Survey
Yellowstone officials said this woman was about six yards away from the bison, near the Fairy Falls trailhead, when she and her daughter turned to pose for a photo with the animal.
“When they turned their backs to the bison to take the picture, someone warned that they were too close,” said a park service news release on the incident. “They heard the bison’s footsteps moving toward them and started to run, but the bison caught the mother on the right side, lifted her up and tossed her with its head.”

The woman's father moved in to protect her, using his body to cover hers. The animal then moved back and the family drove to the Old Faithful Clinic, where the woman was treated and released with minor injuries, the release said.

“The family said they read the warnings in both the park literature and the signage, but saw other people close to the bison, so they thought it would be OK,” Colleen Rawlings, Old Faithful District Ranger, said in the news release. “People need to recognize that Yellowstone wildlife is wild, even though they seem docile. This woman was lucky that her injuries were not more severe.” 

Wildlife should not be approached, regardless of how tame or calm they appear. When an animal is near a trail, boardwalk, parking lot, or in a developed area, visitors must give it a wide berth and not approach it closer than the required minimum distances: 25 yards away from large animals like bison and at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves. 

Bison can run much faster than people and are unpredictable and dangerous. Visitors are advised to give the animals enough space, even if it means altering your plans. 

For more information on park safety, visit http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/safety.htm.

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